Keeping the Vision Alive
Remembering that you are Christ’s ambassador isn’t hard when you have left your own country and live as a stranger in another. Keeping an eternal perspective on life is easier when you step out your kitchen door, look across the field, and watch your neighbor sacrifice a chicken to appease the ancestors. And it is easier to be conscious of people dying without Christ when you hear the wails that mourn the dead.
But it is harder to remember these things when we are surrounded by our own Christian community and the bustling demands of American life. Daily responsibilities cry the loudest and command our attention. It takes intentionality to keep our hearts engaged with Christ’s directive to carry the gospel to the world.
John and I returned from living in a Ghanaian village in late 2009. In the months that followed, we soaked up family time, church life, and the thrill of becoming new parents. But it didn’t take long until we realized that our vision to support missionary efforts would dim if we didn’t purposely keep it alive. We wanted to stay engaged with what God was doing in the world. Below are some ways that we have found helpful in maintaining that goal.
- Read books, listen to messages, attend events.
Be inspired by knowing what God can do, wants to do, and is doing in the world. With the onslaught of information we receive from so many sources, make sure missionary stories and communications are part of your diet.
- Befriend people from other cultures.
One busy summer, we hosted a Japanese exchange student, learned how to make falafel in the kitchen of a Syrian friend, and had a picnic at a park with four ESL students: a Venezuelan Catholic, Bahraini Muslim, Indonesian Christian, and a Cambodian Buddhist. Friendships with other nationalities remind us that the world is much bigger than ourselves and our Lancaster County heritage. Plus, we get to hear their stories, taste their foods, and respond to their comments like, “Before we met you, we didn’t know Americans were serious enough about Christianity to let it affect the way they live.”
Invest in heaven by giving to the poor. Give to organizations that distribute Bibles, feed orphans, or support the persecuted Church. Gifts given to the poor and in the name of Jesus will be seen again, multiplied by heaven’s economy.
Adopt a missionary, even if informally. Remember their birthdays and anniversaries. Stay in touch with them to be aware of their challenges and triumphs. Support them financially. Pray.
- Cap your bank account.
Determine how much it takes for you to live and if you don’t have large expenditures in your foreseeable future, choose to give excess income away instead of accumulating it. Set a specific amount and don’t go above it without good reason.
- Live with less.
Be willing to live with mismatched furniture, drive a modestly-priced vehicle, and make financial choices based on the kingdom lifestyle you have chosen to live. Sometimes, inconveniences are reminders that this world is temporary.
Stay involved in the lives of others. Volunteering our time, one of life’s most valuable commodities, puts service ahead of our own interests. It doesn’t have to be as regulated as weekly English tutoring, though we found that to be healthy as well. Making someone a meal or helping at a workday can take our attention away from ourselves, a necessary shift if we want to live for Christ and the church.
- Write down goals and revisit them.
What has worked for us may not be the answer for you. You might have found ways to live intentionally that look different from ours. How do you keep your heart engaged in the Kingdom of Heaven?